BLOOMINGTON -- The Normal CornBelters' status as an unapologetically "corny" franchise took on another dimension Tuesday.
In an announcement spurred by a naming rights partnership with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and delivered from a podium placed in a corn field, CornBelters' president Steve Malliet declared the independent league baseball team's stadium will be known as The Corn Crib.
"This ballpark is going to be special. It will let people know in a fun and exciting atmosphere all about corn," Malliet said. "We feel the name and logo of the stadium will give the community, region and state a renewed understanding of how agriculture plays a quiet but essential role in their daily lives."
The CornBelters begin play in the Frontier League on May 21. The first home game at the stadium under construction at Heartland College is scheduled for June 1.
Tricia Braid Terry, communications director of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, said the agreement is for "two years with an automatic renewal. We definitely intend for it to be a long-standing and beneficial relationship for both of us."
According to Jim Rapp, chairman of the ICMB, the board was "overwhelmingly in favor of it. We think it's really a neat idea.
"If it doesn't feel like it's going to work, and we think it's going to, we could get out (after two years). But we feel it's a real opportunity and we're looking forward to being a part of it."
Terry, Rapp and Malliet all declined to disclose financial terms of the agreement announced from the rural Bloomington farm of Loren Lay.
Normal mayor Chris Koos termed the situation "another example of how the public and private sector came together in a positive way."
The corn connection will extend deep into the game atmosphere of the CornBelters, according to Malliet.
"We're going to grow corn in right-center field and the players will come out of the corn in a cloud of smoke," Malliet said of a "Field of Dreams" style pregame introduction.
The CornBelters also plan to offer several corn-related concession items, including corn dogs, corn chips, corn nuts, corn fritters and sweet corn.